Iron Bird stands guard over a little ceramic pottery nest with eggs. The nest is fun to make and looks cute just about anywhere. The eggs are not attached, so you can pick them up and move them around--interactive art is fun! When Rick saw this nest sitting on the piano a few weeks ago he asked me where I bought it. He thought it was really cool. That's the ultimate complement--it's good enough to sell in a store! :-)
How to Make a Ceramic Pottery
Bird's Nest (and Eggs) out of Clay
Step 1. Start with a ball of clay.
You don't need a lot of clay, just enough to fit in your palm. After you've formed the ball, use your thumb to press a hole in the center...
Step 2. Create the nest shape.
Continue pressing into the clay to create a small bowl. You're basically making a small pinch pot...
Step 3. Refine the nest shape.
Flatten the bowl out a bit so it starts to take the form of a nest...
Step 4. Wet down a clay extruder tool.
You can get hand-held clay extruders at any pottery supply store for about $10.00. You can also use a garlic press...or maybe a Play-doh press if your kids have one. Wetting down the extruder makes it easier to extrude the clay and keeps the clay moist...
Step 5. Roll out a "snake" of clay to put in the extruder.
You can also just push globs of clay into the cylinder, but it's quicker and easier to create a snake of clay and slide it in. You might not get as much clay into the extruder by snaking it in, but for this project you want to extrude the clay in small batches anyway...
Step 6. Create the "nesting material."
There are lots of end cap disks that come with the extruder to create various extruded forms. I use the mesh disk to create the nesting material. All you have to do is depress the plunger and tiny clay "grass and twig" noodles are extruded out...
Step 7. Build the nest!
This is the fun part! Take the extruded "twigs" and apply them to the clay nest. Since you wet down the cylinder of the extruder before you extruded the clay, the tiny noodles of clay are moist and adhere to the sides very well. No scoring is required. I've never once had any of my nesting material fall off during the firing process by not scoring. ("Scoring" is where you rough up both edges of the clay and apply water to form slip to help the two pieces stick together. )
Step 8. Continue to build the nest one batch of twig noodles at a time.
After extruding the nesting material, immediately adhere it to the clay nest form. If you create several extruded batches of noodles and set them aside, they dry out too quickly and won't adhere correctly. Take your time building the nest. A light hand goes a long way, because keeping the nest airy is important. If you push the noodles into the clay too hard, they flatten out and the nest looks heavy...
Step 9. Don't be too neat with the nesting material!
Don't be tempted to make everything perfect. Let the tiny clay twig noodles overlap each other and zig back here and there. I usually adhere noodles to the rim first, then fill the inside cup, then adhere noodles to the outside. Vary the pattern and leave spaces...
Step 10. Roll out small round ball shapes for the eggs.
Getting these little balls the right size takes a bit of practice, but once you practice a few times, it's easy to create the right shape...
Step 11. Gently roll and depress at one end of the ball.
Creating an egg requires a bit of finesse. It's easy to do, though. Just start rolling the ball and depress gently at one end with your fingertip. You'll see the egg shape form before your eyes...
Step 12. Test out the proportions.
Place the eggs in the nest to make sure they fit the nest and are about the same size--unless, of course, you want to show that the nest was parasitized by a Cowbird and make one egg larger! ;-)
Step 13. Wait...
It can take up to two weeks for a clay piece to completely dry. Your teacher will bisque fire it when it's ready. Bisque firing changes the clay into ceramic material. When it comes out, it will be hard and white...ready for glazing.
Step 14. Glaze the nest and eggs.
You can glaze the eggs any color you'd like--maybe Robin's Egg blue, or you can look up egg patterns and copy one. In my nest, I glazed the eggs with Potter's Stone Buff. It gives the eggs a soft cream color with spots of brown. For little effort, it creates a convincing egg! You can use any glaze to create the nest. The simplest glaze is Amber Ash. That's what I used to create this nest. It is translucent, so you can add dark-brown underglazes here and there and then top it with the Amber Ash.
Step 15. Fire it again!
After you glaze your piece, your teacher will fire it again. This final firing will melt the glaze (powdered glass suspended in water) and fuse it to the bisqueware. After the glaze firing, your nest is finished! (Make sure your teacher fires the eggs separately from the nest during the glaze firing. If you fire them together, the eggs will stick to the nest--unless that's the look you're after. Maybe you don't want the eggs to be able to be picked up.)
You can never have too much bird art! Have fun making this little nest...kids love the removable eggs.
Finding a Pottery Studio
A quick Internet search should help you locate a pottery studio near you. I've been going to the "It's Just Mud Pottery Studio" for 11 years. It's located in Liberty Township...about a 25-minute drive for me. If you're in Cincinnati, call Pam Ives at the studio for information, 513-887-2657. Pam is a master potter and wonderful teacher. You will have fun at her studio! The hands you see in the photos above belong to Pam. I had her model each step for me so I could photograph the process! Thanks, Pam!!
I hope you find a studio. If you do, print out this post, take it with you, and show your teacher or the studio owner. He or she will help you get the right materials. The little bird nest with eggs makes a great gift too. I've created lots of birdy designs over the years, and they are all easy to make. I will try to get a few more designs up (click here for another clay bird project I posted a few years ago).